Austria takes team nordic combined gold, U.S. fourth
The same four Austrian men that took Olympic gold a year ago became world champions today (Feb. 28) in the nordic combined normal hill team event at the Nordic World Championships in Oslo, Norway.
Standing fourth after the morning jumping portion, the Austrian team of David Kreiner, Bernhard Gruber, Felix Gottwald and Mario Stecher tore into their five-kilometer cross country relay, finishing with just a 0.4-second advantage on the German team with the silver medal.
In third position after the jumping leg, the Norwegian team secured the bronze medal in third place, finishing 40.6 seconds behind in the cross country portion.
Olympic team event silver medalists, Americans Billy Demong, Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane joined by Bryan Fletcher just missed the medals in fourth. The U.S. team stood fifth after the jumping portion and skied hard to the second-fastest cross country time, but came in 14 seconds behind Norway.
"We talked after the jumping and obviously we had a little bit of time to make up," said Demong, who jumped 1110.5 meters and was the first American in the cross country relay, "So we kind of frontloaded and Todd is good at finishing. All in all, fourth place is still in there considering we've got guys coming back from injury and breaks."
Demong was successful at seriously eating into the deficit. The Olympic large hill champion cut the margin all the way down to 29.6 seconds behind Germany with the fastest cross country leg of the day.
Fletcher took the pass and was matched up to Austria's Bernhard Gruber. The rookie matched Gruber stride for stride through the first lap and into the second, rapidly closing the gap on third place France.
"Bill did a great job of catching up to the Austrians and I went out with a goal of just hanging with them and trying to move up to France," said Fletcher. "I went out and the pace felt pretty easy and I could put in some effort to reel in France. Then Gruber just took off like an animal and I just didn't have it."
On the second of two laps, Fletcher led Gruber on a short herringbone uphill chasing France's Sebastian Lacroix. They came within two ski lengths before the Frenchman took off. As the lap wore on, Gruber hit a new gear. He took off from Fletcher, attacking Lacroix and moving into bronze position just 19 seconds off the lead.
His countryman Felix Gottwald was also up to the task on the third leg, crushing the field and moving Austria into the lead as Spillane moved the USA up past France and into fourth. But as Spillane handed off to Lodwick, there was still a minute off the lead and 37 seconds out of the medals. Despite Lodwick skiing the fastest anchor leg and Norway's Magnus Moan fading in the final lap, the defending World Champion Lodwick couldn't quite close the gap enough, finishing 14 seconds out of bronze.
"It's bittersweet," said Demong reflecting on a strong U.S. performance that just wasn't quite enough. "We could medal but at the same time we're still doing well. The impressive thing today is that we jumped better as a team. And Bryan just went for it. He led the Austrian who just took him at the end of the race. We're growing the depth of our team."
"I think everyone can be satisfied with what they did today," said Spillane, who is returning from a knee injury. "It wasn't as good as what we're capable of but overall it was a pretty good day. Fourth place is always a little bit tough, but everybody did a good job."
Nordic combined competition continues on Wednesday with large hill individual event. There will be large hill team event on Friday, March 4.
MORE TO COME
|LAMY CHAPPUIS Jason|